Course Description

Learn the art of the personal essay in this asynchronous 4-week course. Whether you are thinking about your college application essay or simply interested in telling your own stories on the page, this course will teach you how to write about yourself in a way that is engaging, honest, clear, and affecting. We will focus on the most important creative writing tools, including character development, description, and voice, and study published contemporary personal essays to learn from the masters.

There is no form more timeless, or more timely, than the personal essay. But without guidance, writing narrative about your own life can be daunting. People often worry, Is it really ok to admit to things I'm not supposed to have done or felt? What if my dad reads it? What if I hurt someone's feelings? Why would anyone care about my life? This class will explore those questions and others. You will get weekly writing prompts, a fun community of fellow essayists, and plenty of attention and critique from the instructor. You will read great essays and discuss why they work (the instructor will provide links, so you won't need to buy books). Most importantly, you will do plenty of essay-writing. By the end of the course, you will have at least one polished essay.

This course is ideal for high school students who are interested in creative writing and drawn to introspection.

Please note times are in Central Standard Time (CST).

Learner Outcomes

  • Learn how to turn real people into flesh-and-blood characters.
  • Learn how to apply layers of meaning to anecdotes.
  • Learn how to properly structure a personal essay.
  • Learn how to use language to generate emotion.
  • Learn how to hold the reader's attention.
  • End the course with at least one finished personal essay.


This class is entirely asynchronous with weekly deadlines and there is plenty of interaction with the instructor and your peers within Wet Ink, the dedicated online classroom. Craft materials, lectures, reading assignments, and writing prompts are all available through the online classroom. Students also post work and provide and receive feedback within the online classroom environment.

You can get the work done as you see fit week-to-week, so it is perfect for any schedule. There are discussion questions each week inspired by the assigned readings and topics in the lecture notes. Students are encouraged to take these wherever is most compelling and/or useful for them.

Each writer will have the opportunity to submit twice for workshop, receiving detailed feedback from their peers as well as the instructor; follow-up questions and conversations often occur. The instructor engages with these discussions throughout the week.


  • Online registration closes at noon 4 days prior to the start of the class.
  • For late registration options, please contact SMU College Prep at 214-768-2267 for assistance.
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